gratefulness & giving back

By: Emily Jones

November 22, 2017

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” - Charles Dickens

Sometimes I have days when the hustle and bustle of life gets to me and makes the efforts I put in feel insignificant or useless as Dickens puts it. The daily routine starts to feel draining, like I’m just going through the motions only to start over the next day and do it all again. Recharging usually happens on the weekends when I have a quiet moment, but sometimes the weekends are just as busy as the week. On weeks like that I do something kind of corny, I get out my gratitude journal. It’s something that when I was at my lowest of lows would always make me feel very grateful for the things I did have and take away the overwhelmed feelings I sometimes get. It’s a really excellent way to start or end your day. I force myself to find just 5 things that I am grateful for in my life or just in that day and it really starts to turn my mood around.

As we get closer to the holidays, my gratitude journal really gets me thinking about those who don’t have the basic things that I am thankful for and gives me a prompting to help others. This year I want to take some action, but didn’t really know where to start. So I searched online and found a plethora of ways to give back at this time of year and I will give you my top 10 favorite ideas (in no particular order).

      • Giving Tuesday - This is the easiest way to give back if you are crunched for time, you just make a donation on Tuesday to the charity of your choice. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. The #GivingTuesday hashtag when used in social media gives your charity free advertising and unites you with everyone else who is giving online. After all the commercialism of Black Friday, it feels really good to give back on the Tuesday after. Also this is a great place to mention the Amazon Smile program where you give back to a charity of your choice all year long when you make a purchase on Amazon.
      • Reconnect with an old friend – Take time out of the busy holiday weekend to reconnect with friends from an old job, a neighbor you haven’t talked to in a long time or people you’ve just lost touch with and let them know how thankful you are for them. You never know when your kind words will reach someone at a time they need them the most. Send them a card, letter, email, text or message online. You’ll be glad you did.
      • Visit a Hospital or Nursing Home – People who may be stuck in the hospital or a nursing home may not have family close to visit them, so stopping by with a card, flower or a board game might be just the ticket to making their day. Give your local hospital or nursing home a call first to see how you can help.
      • Visit your local animal shelter – animal shelters are always looking for donations of food, time and money. So next time your buying pet food, grab an extra bag for your favorite shelter, check their donation lists and you may have items like old towels or blankets that they can use or even better call them to see if they need volunteers. You may not only brighten a lonely pet’s day but may come home with a new best friend.
      • Donate Blood – You never know when you or a loved one may be in need of blood or plasma and I always think of it as a way of paying it forward for when you may be in need. Donating is a lot more fun when you go with a friend or loved one.
      • Volunteer to be a caregiver for an afternoon – We all have someone in our lives who is a stressed out caregiver, whether is a new mom, an experienced parent or an adult child with aging parents. Give them a call and offer your time to them.
      • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry – this is a very popular one this time of year and if you want to do it on the holiday it may be too late at this point, but call them up anyways and ask when they could use the extra help most. If you don’t have a lot of time it’s always a good time to donate to the food pantry. Contacting them first will let you know what they are in real need of. Sometimes things like aluminum foil or paper products are really in need or they may be able to use a cash donation more than anything since they shop at cost and can get more for it than you could.
      • Clean up your neighborhood – This could be as simple as asking your neighbors to help clean up a common area or helping an elderly neighbor with leaf cleanup or as complicated as getting your neighborhood association involved for a neighborhood-wide clean up.
      • Invite Someone to Thanksgiving – Do you know a college student who can’t be home for the holidays or a neighbor whose family couldn’t be with them or a family that could use some camaraderie? I’m sure we all have someone that could use somewhere to be on the holiday. Always reach out if you are able. We’ve hosted a couple times and it’s always a fun time.
      • Pay it Forward – This is my favorite thing to do around the holidays. I try to find ways to do this every year. I haven’t been a layaway angel yet, but I will buy the person behind me in the drive thru coffee or meal, I will put quarters into several of the shopping carts at Aldi, I will over tip my server, I will put money in expired meters on the street and I try to above all else be kind and smile as much as I can (they are contagious). It can be a stressful time of year for everyone and going the extra mile just might make a real difference for someone else.

Now these are just my top 10 favorites, there are so many other ways to help out there. Hopefully this list inspires you to be grateful, listen to your promptings and maybe ease the burdens of someone else. I’m going to leave you with some more wise words:

“I believe it’s a fact of life that what we have is less important than what we make out of what we have” - Fred Rogers

Happy Thanksgiving